Are we starting to see year-end solicitation letters v2.0?

direct mail3A few years ago I noticed some of the letters being sent to me by non-profit organizations were getting less wordy. In fact, these next generation donor communications pieces were mostly featuring a big photograph of someone/something that was supposedly mission-focused.
At first, I really didn’t like this new approach to donor communications. Don’t get me wrong . . . I disliked the blah-blah-blah letters. Like most readers, I would read the old solicitation letters like this:

  • Salutation (e.g. did they spell my name right?)
  • First few sentences (e.g. how much do they want and what’s the case for support this time?)
  • Skip to the signature (e.g. do I know the person who signed the letter?)
  • Post script (e.g. don’t know why, but I always read the P.S.)
  • If this five second review hooks me, then I’ll go back to the beginning and start skimming (honestly probably paying more attention to bullets, highlighted text and anything in bold/italics)

It was even worse with gift acknowledgement letters, which I would read like this:

  • Salutation (e.g. did they spell my name right?)
  • Did they get my pledge or gift amount right? (e.g. this is for the IRS and I can’t afford an error)
  • Is there a personal notation on the letter (e.g. did my gift merit a little love or was this just a transaction?)
  • Is the boilerplate IRS verbiage about the value of any goods or services being received by me from the non-profit as part of my contribution correctly listed (e.g. as I said earlier . . . I don’t wanna tangle with the IRS)

The first few times I received what I am describing as “next generation donor communication pieces,” I simply didn’t like it because it represented change. It threw me off my reading routine, which is silly reason to dislike something. Right?
However, the first time one of these letters was used to acknowledge my contribution by a local non-profit organization, I was upset for a few reasons:

  • In their haste to use as few words as possible, they got wrong the boilerplate IRS verbiage about the value of any goods or services being received (this was a technical error)
  • I felt slighted because it was as if “my gift didn’t even rise to the level of deserving a handful of kind words” (by the way, the letter couldn’t have been more than three or four sentences with a giant cute picture of a client)

And then . . . I changed my mind after recently receiving the following year-end solicitation letter from my alma mater

Three short paragraphs. One large picture. Lots of wonky ways to give my money.
Here is what appealed to me and changed my mind about this style of donor communications:

  1. The picture took me back to my college years. I know exactly where those four students are standing. I’ve stood there before. I suspect that I felt that same way they appear to be feeling. This picture created an immediate emotional connection for me in a way that words never have.
  2. The logo at the top of the letter also created an immediate emotional connection. It is a picture of the iconic Alma Mater statue. For many students, this artwork at the entrance to the Quad symbolizes many things (e.g. a sense of welcoming, nurturing, school pride, etc). Many students have fond memories attached to this statue.
  3. The shortened fundraising verbiage cut to the bottom line and the three most important things to me and most other donors: a) the university is grateful for my last contribution; b) my gift made a difference in the life of a student; and c) they want me to continue my support. All three of these messages are emotional in natural (e.g. they love me, they flatter me, they want me back).
  4. The multitude of choices is appealing (e.g. cash, credit, EFT/ACH, monthly giving options, gift restriction options). This makes me feel “in charge” and not like I’m giving money to a large, faceless organization that is going to do whatever it pleases with my financial contribution. Again, another emotional message (e.g. providing choice implies trust and respect in our society)

I’ve been a fan of Tom Ahern for years. I think he is one of the smartest donor communications experts in the field. In his videos and e-newsletters he often takes about the the six most powerful emotional triggers that marketers use to get people to do “something” like purchase a product, vote for a candidate, make a charitable contribution, etc.
Just in case you’re wondering, here are those six emotional triggers:

  • anger
  • exclusivity
  • fear
  • flattery
  • greed
  • guilt

Tom also talks about the 13 strongest words used by marketing professionals. Here is a list of those words:

  • discovery
  • results
  • proven
  • early
  • safety
  • free
  • save
  • guarantee
  • new
  • money
  • health
  • YOU

I love Tom, but I do cheat on him from time-to-time by reading other donor communications and direct mail experts like Mal Warwick.   😉
The following are five positive triggers that marketers use to emotionally move us to do something:

  • hope
  • love
  • compassion
  • duty
  • faith

As you review these lists of emotional triggers and powerful words offered by some of the smartest thought-leaders on this topic, can you identify which trigger the University of Illinois wove throughout its letter? Can you see how they did it? If you look really hard, you’ll be surprised at how much more is actually going on in this very short and powerful letter.
Please use the comment box to share your thoughts and observations. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Suggestions on how to improve your fundraising appeals and plan

Let’s face it. Times change, and those things that don’t evolve and keep up with the times get old and stale. And this applies to everything in life including your fundraising plan (which includes your goals, strategies, tactics and sometimes even best practices). I’ve asked Abby Jarvis from Qgiv to weigh-in with her suggestions on how your organization might evolve its approach to soliciting donors and polishing up its fundraising plan. I think you will like her five suggestions. Here’s to your health!  ~Erik

5 Ways to Make Better Fundraising Asks

By Abby Jarvis
Blogger, marketer & communications coordinator for Qgiv
improvementYour nonprofit is constantly trying to improve. Whether you’re developing an efficiency hack for your staff members or trying new fundraising events, openness to change is what allows your organization to grow, acquire more donors, and raise more money for your cause.
One area that nonprofits can constantly improve in is their donation appeal strategies. There is always room for improvement, whether you ask for donations over the phone, in person, with direct mail, or through any other method.

Check out these five ways to improve your fundraising appeals!

1. Update your website

Donors who find themselves on your nonprofit’s website don’t want to see pages that haven’t been updated since 2007.
Part of improving your fundraising efforts should involve sprucing up your nonprofit’s website and donation page.
Online donations are steadily rising and becoming the preferred giving method for younger generations who have grown up surrounded by technology.  Make sure that you aren’t losing these donors’ interests by having an outdated donation page and website.
Check out these great examples of donation forms for a little inspiration.

2. Start personalizing your direct mail

You wouldn’t send a letter to your Aunt Margaret that started off with “Dear Relative.”
You shouldn’t be doing that in your direct mail appeals either.
One characteristic that unites all nonprofits with successful direct mail solicitation is the personalization of their letters.
Personalization doesn’t just mean using the donor’s name in the greeting, though. It also means:

  • Referencing past involvement or contributions.
  • Offering new ways to interact with your nonprofit.
  • Suggesting giving levels based on past contributions.
  • A personal signature from an organization member.
  • And more!

Make sure that you’re personalizing your direct mail appeals to bring in more donations for your nonprofit!

3. Ramp up your email campaigns

More and more nonprofits are looking to improve their email marketing techniques. Is your organization ready to join them?
Ramping up your email campaigns means taking a look at the successful emails you’ve sent in the past and improving the ones that weren’t as effective.
Don’t just send out donation appeals in your emails, though. Give donors regular updates about your organization with:

  • Success stories.
  • Info on current projects.
  • Volunteering opportunities.
  • Invitations to events.
  • And more!

Sending out emails to your donors is a cost-effective and efficient way to keep them in the loop and to ask for donations.

4. Host really great fundraising events

Even though event fundraisers come with a cost, they can be fantastic opportunities for your supporters to interact with one another and your nonprofit.
They can be a valuable be a great way for your organization to ask for donations!
Let’s say you’re hosting a family fun day for your church’s mission trip. During the opening or closing ceremony, let attendees know why their donations are so important and what they will help fund. Then, give them ways to donate either through physical, on-site donations, or digital methods like text-to-give or mobile donation forms.
Hosting a fundraising event takes a lot of planning and coordination, but with the right tools, your nonprofit can make better fundraising asks at the events you host for donors!

5. Take a look at your major gift strategy

Asking for donations from major gift prospects can be tricky. Not only do you have to convince someone that your organization is worth supporting, but you have to ask that person for a significant amount of money.
The best way for your nonprofit to succeed when it comes to major gifts is to develop a strategy for going after those donations. This strategy should include:

Major gifts are often some of the biggest donations that a nonprofit can receive. In fact, an individual who has made a gift between $50,000 and $100,000 is 25 times more likely to donate than an average person is. Make sure you aren’t missing out on these large contributions because your major gift strategy has been found lacking.
Your nonprofit should have several goals for improvement, but one of them should definitely be to make better fundraising asks! With these five tips, you’ll be set for success. Happy asking!

AbbyAbby Jarvis is a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. Qgiv offers industry-leading online giving and peer to peer fundraising tools for nonprofit, faith-based, and political organizations of all sizes. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.

Can we all please agree that ambushing donors needs to stop?

ambushWell, it happened to me and my husband again just the other day. We were asked to dinner by a non-profit friend. It was a simple dinner invitation, and one that we’ve been working on setting up for more than a year. We weren’t in the restaurant for more than 15 minutes and the pre-meal cocktails had just arrived, when our friend was asking us to give some consideration to making a contribution to their organization’s endowment fund.
There isn’t any other way to characterize a situation like this other than it was an old fashion…


The inexplicable thing I still cannot wrap my head around is that we would’ve happily accepted this dinner invitation if we knew there was a solicitation attached to it.
Some of you might be wondering what the big deal is all about.
sneak attackSimply, I believe soliciting unsuspecting prospects and donors is detrimental to your organization (and to everyone else in non-profit sector) for the following reasons:

  • It puts the person on the spot (and when has that ever felt good?)
  • It erodes trust (what will they think the next time you ask them to join you for a meal?)
  • It validates the erroneous belief by some people that fundraising is a sneaky and shameful activity focused on making people do something they otherwise wouldn’t want to do
  • It feels wrong when friends do this to their friends and colleagues, which contributes to people saying NO when asked to volunteer for a non-profit fundraising campaign

Yes, I understand most people don’t do this purposefully. They simply weren’t trained appropriately or they harbor anxiety about rejection (or any number of other fears) when it comes to setting up the fundraising meeting.
Some of you are probably now wondering what the solution is.
Almost 10 years ago, I ran into a very smart board volunteer who understood the importance of training. So much so, his company developed a video he used with his fellow board members to help them feel more comfortable with every aspect of the solicitation progress. I was lucky enough that he agreed to share his homemade training video with me.
Embedded within more than an hour of video was a seven minute clip explaining (and role playing) the appropriate way to pick-up the phone and successfully secure a fundraising meeting with a prospect/donor. This is simply one of the best pieces of video that I’ve ever seen on this topic.
sneak attack2In an effort to do may part to help eradicate the “ambush” tactic from our non-profit toolbox, I will share with you some of the tips from this video.

  • Before picking up the phone, write down three reasons why you need to sit down with your prospect/donor and keep that piece of paper nearby when you place the call (and look at this piece of paper when you feel yourself getting nervous)
  • When the prospect/donor answers the phone, ask them for time to meet in-person (after preliminary greetings and chit-chat, of course) and share the three reasons for the meeting
  • Some of the reasons to meet in-person might include: a) asking for advice, b) securing their involvement, c) thanking them for their support, d) accessing their expertise; BUT one of the reasons must include discussing their potential support of the campaign, event or fundraising activity in question
  • Making up reasons to meet can feel insincere and manipulative . . . so don’t use silly reasons. Come up with real reasons that will benefit the organization or are plausible based upon your personal relationship
  • Don’t ask if they can meet . . . ask them when they can meet.

If this sounds simple, it’s because it is. If you still don’t believe this approach works, then think of it this way . . .
We are all very busy with our lives. So, when a friend calls asking for some of your time and only gives one reason for the meeting, it doesn’t feel weighty enough to want an in-person meeting. Surely one discussion item can quickly be resolved on the telephone. Right??? However, listing off a number of things you wish to discuss begins to feel lengthy and not well suited for a quick telephone conversation.
Still don’t believe me? Well then, I guess there is only one way to resolve this dispute . . . try this strategy on for size next time you need to schedule an in-person meeting with a prospect/donor. I’m betting that you’re successful.  😉
Do you have additional tips to share with the non-profit sector about how to set-up an in-person meeting with a prospect/donor without resorting to ambush tactics? If so, please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

“Hangin’ with Henry” and talking about group solicitation strategies

It is the first Thursday of the month, which can only mean one thing at DonorDreams blog. We’re “Hangin’ With Henry” today and talking about fundraising shortcuts like the group solicitation.  
For those of you who subscribe to DonorDreams blog and get notices by email, you will want to click this link to view this month’s featured YouTube video. If you got here via your web browser, then you can click on the video graphic below.
After listening to Henry for the last 6 minutes, I was transported back in time to my earliest fundraising solicitations as a District Executive working for Boy Scouts of America’s Northwest Suburban Council. While part of their Friends of Scouting annual campaign pledge drive model was based on in-person, one-on-one, face-to-face solicitation, the bigger part of it was group solicitations in front of gatherings of parents at Cub Scout Pack Nights and Boy Scout Court of Honor events.
I honestly don’t miss dragging the old slide projector and screen all of the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. LOL
As I listened to Henry, everything rang true. I learned the hard way that highly capable donors lowered their philanthropic sights when solicited in a group setting.
I also remember learning that the smallest dollar amount mentioned during my presentation usually resulted in scads of pledge cards with that number on it. It was with this lesson that I re-trained myself to do the following during my group asks:

  • Stop saying: “Even a gift of $25 makes a difference.”
  • Start saying: “People who pledge $150 tonight will walk out with a complimentary Norman Rockwell coffee mug.”
  • Bring a box of donated chotskies (e.g. yo-yo’s, baseball cards, etc) and tell parents their kids were welcome to a free gift if they allowed them to bring their pledge cards to the front of the room.

Ahhhhh, those were fun days when fundraising was new to me and every day brought a new lesson.  🙂
(Note: Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m not very proud of some of the group solicitation tactics I employed even though I became one lean, mean group solicitation machine compared to my fellow co-workers. Needless to say, I was nothing more than a transactional fundraiser who couldn’t say “donor-centered” if I tried.)
Henry did indicate there can be an appropriate time and place for your organization to employ a group solicitation strategy. For example, some non-profit organizations are very successful with Terry Axelrod’s annual campaign model that you might know as Benevon.
If your organization uses a group solicitation fundraising strategy, please scroll down to the comment box and answer one of the following questions:

  • under what circumstances do you use a group solicitation?
  • what are a few “lessons learned” that you feel comfortable sharing?
  • how do you ensure that larger donors aren’t lost in the shuffle and contribute less?
  • how do you create a sense of urgency for donors to ink their pledge cards on the spot?
  • what post-solicitation follow-up strategies do you use with pledge cards that walked out the door?
  • what pre-solicitation cultivation strategies and post-solicitation stewardship strategies work best for you?

Please take a minute to share your thoughts and experiences.
If you want to purchase a complete set of videos or other fundraising resources from Henry Freeman, you can do so by visiting the online store at H. Freeman Associates LLC. You can also sign-up for quarterly emails with a FREE online video and discussion guide by clicking here.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Check out this awesome donor upgrade strategy

On January 8th, I wrote a post titled “Fundraising New Year’s Resolution — Upgrade Strategy,” which contained a few tips about how your non-profit organization can achieve this important strategy. After writing that post, I wished that I had a sample to share with you . . . and then a few weeks ago I received an email from Dane Grams at Human Right Campaign (HRC).
Did you notice the following:

  • The case for support was simply captured without saying a word? A picture is worth a 1,000 words!
  • Philanthropy is an emotional activity and the case evoked lots of emotion.
  • He didn’t bombard me with lots of stats. He didn’t try to tell me how often this type of thing happens in America. He simply pulled an emotional trigger and got out of the way.
  • He asked for a specific dollar amount increase.
  • He made it easy to say YES . . . just click the link.
  • He thanked me for my ongoing support and participation in their monthly giving program.

Tom Ahern, one of our country’s smartest donor communications experts, says all the time that good appeals contain at least one of the following emotional triggers:

  • anger
  • exclusivity
  • fear
  • flattery
  • greed
  • guilt
  • salvation

How many of those triggers can you see in the letter above?
If you want to learn how to get better at donor communications, I suggest checking out Tom Ahern’s books, videos and resources. If you want to learn more about monthly giving programs, Pamela Grow has a really nice four week distance learning online course. If you want to get better at creating upgrade opportunities, keep your eyes open because some of your peers in the non-profit sector have gotten really good at it. As I say in many of my blog posts . . . we can learn from each other!
I’m sure you’re wondering if I clicked that upgrade button. You’re damn straight I did! I didn’t even think twice about doing it, which is how I know it was a very effective appeal.
Have you seen a really good upgrade strategy (e.g. mail, email, etc)? Please feel free to email it to me, and I’ll be happy to share it with the rest of the DonorDreams blog community. I will, of course, scrub it of your personal into and protect your identity.
Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Fundraising New Years Resolution — Upgrade Strategy

new years resolutionsIn my last blog post I talked about a USA Today article from John Waggoner titled “Resolutions you can keep,“ which I came across during my New Year’s Eve Napa Valley vacation. I mentioned that there were three important fundraising concepts in the final two column inches of this article that non-profit organizations should take to heart as they start a new year. Tuesday’s blog was about sustainable giving strategies. Today’s post focuses on sacrificial giving and upgrade strategies.
So, the second notable thing that Waggoner said in the final two inches of his newspaper article was:

How much you give is, of course, up to you. C.S. Lewis noted that if your charitable donations don’t pinch or hamper you in some way, they are probably too little.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my first significant charitable contribution was a $1,000 annual campaign pledge to the Boy Scout council that employed me back in the 1990s. I used that story to springboard off into sustainable giving. The funny thing is that the same Boy Scout story pertains to the second Waggoner quote that I’m using today.
So, there I was in my Scout Executive’s office and he was debriefing me after my first ever solicitation of a donor. It didn’t go especially well, and he pointed out that I hadn’t yet turned in my personal pledge card prior to going on my solicitation appointment with another fundraising volunteer.
He helped me see the importance of “making your gift first before asking others to make their gift.” Of course, he seized the opportunity and solicited me on the spot.
First, he asked me if I had decided how much I planned on pledging. I explained that I had never made a pledge to any non-profit organization and was thinking about making a $100 contribution.
give til it hurtsThen, he launched into a story about the importance of what he called “sacrificial giving” and “giving until you can feel a little pinch in your wallet.” The following are just a few of the reasons I recall from that conversation why it is important to give until it hurts:

  • You will feel good about supporting a mission that you love
  • You will be demonstrating your passion to volunteers and donors
  • You won’t feel like you’re asking someone to do something that you aren’t doing yourself
  • The fear associated with asking people for money will melt away

While I was skeptical at first, I took the plunge with a $1,000 pledge. In hindsight, my Scout Executive couldn’t have been more right, especially about “eliminating the fear” associated with asking people for money.
With all that being said, I believe Waggoner’s second to last paragraph in the USA Today article begs the following question:

Does your organization have an “upgrade strategy”?

Fundraising analytics demonstrate that an individual’s first contribution is almost never his/her largest one. In fact, a donor’s first contribution is usually a token gift and very often a test. Uh-huh, you heard me right. The research data that I’ve seen indicates that:

  • Donors want to see what their contribution will do
  • They are interested in seeing how you engage them
  • While they likely already believe in your mission, they want to really believe and want you to show them why they should
  • Many donors are looking for signs that your organization is well-run and financially stable and responsible
  • Some supporters (and I count myself as one of these types of donors) actually look forward to hearing success stories about your clients

So, if you’ve done a good job with stewarding your donors in 2014, then you need to have a strategy to ask your donors to consider making a larger contribution in 2015.
upgradeYour strategy doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the following is a simple upgrade strategy that one of my former employers put together:

  1. Identify donors who are ready to be asked to increase their giving
  2. Develop your case for support
  3. Identify volunteers with relationships to targeted donor
  4. Ask those volunteers to upgrade their personal contribution
  5. Solicit (making sure to involve someone they know well and who has also recently increased their giving)
  6. Steward (focusing on what the increased giving resulted in)

When developing your case, make sure to answer this simple question: “What will an X% increase in giving help your organization do and how will that in turn meet the donor’s needs?
Of course, answering this question means that you need to know your donor and their needs, which likely means you’ve been talking with them about their philanthropic dreams/desires.
If you don’t like simple, then you might want to look into developing a donor recognition society that caters to the needs of donors who increase their giving. This donor society should contain considerations like:

  • Special mention in your annual report
  • Special communications
  • Special recognition

The operative word, of course, is “special,” but the trick is to make the recognition feel appropriate and not over-the-top. Here are a few ideas that I’ve seen some organization’s use to make their recognition societies feel special:

  • Quarterly get together (usually mission-focused)
  • Routine communication specifically for members of the recognition society
  • Small gift typically designating membership in the society (e.g. coffee mug, lapel pin, etc)

You shouldn’t go out and hire a skywriter to thank these donors, but you do need to go above-and-beyond if you decide to go down this path.
Does your organization have an upgrade strategy in place for 2015? If so, please scroll down and share it in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.
If you want to read more about upgrade strategies, I found a really nice blog post from Joe Garecht at The Fundraising Authority titled “How to Upgrade Your Donors“.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Happy #GivingTuesday everyone!

givingtuesday2Sorry about not posting something this morning, but I got to my hotel late last night (around midnight) and I was up five hours later for a 6:00 prospect identification/evaluation meeting. My request of Santa this year is more time added to the day and a few more weeks added on to the year.   🙂
However, when I got out of my early morning meetings and checked my overflowing email inbox, I was reminded that today is #GivingTuesday. I couldn’t have forgotten it even if I wanted because I had a ton of non-profit emails reminding me. I’m not kidding when I tell you that between my emails, LinkedIn messages, and Twitter  and Facebook feeds, I must have received 25 personalized solicitations.
Being sleep deprived and generally a softy when it comes to charitable giving, I decided to make my first ever #GivingTuesday donation. So, I weeded through all of the online solicitations and chose the one that I liked most and aligned with what I support.
Drum roll please?  🙂

Congratulations to United Way of Elgin!

Here is the text/copy of what they sent me in a Constant Contact solicitation:

Today is #GivingTuesday–Let’s ALL Make a Difference Today!
#GivingTuesday is an international movement to honor the spirit of giving during the holiday season. After the craziness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday reminds us that we are part of something bigger, and that everyone plays a part in making our world a better place.
Join United Way of Elgin in celebrating this day dedicated to giving back. You can participate instantly with a $30 gift to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, which provides one free book each month to children under five in our community. Over 4,200 children received books through the DPIL in 2014–help us reach even more kids in 2015!
No matter how you choose to be a part of #GivingTuesday, remember that when you reach out a hand to one, you influence the condition of all. THANK YOU!!

I must admit that my charitable gift felt like an “impulse buy” like one I might have made on Black Friday because I obviously wasn’t planning on making this gift.
Hmmmmmm? Black Friday? #GivingTuesday?
I suspect a light just went off above my head.
dolly partonSuccessful #GivingTuesday solicitations probably utilize some of the same strategies that for-profits use to create the conditions for an impulse buy. Now it all makes sense. (I might not be quick, but I usually get there.)  🙂
So, here is what I really like about the United Way of Elgin’s #GivingTuesday solicitation:

  • It was big and colorful, which captured my attention
  • There was a picture that told most of the story
  • They asked for a specific dollar amount, which allowed me to not think about it very long.
  • It was project focused and very specific
  • The case for support was understandable in a few simple sentences
  • There were multiple links to the DonateNow page (so if I wasn’t ready to click after seeing the first link there were other opportunities late in the letter)
  • The letter was short, sweet and to the point . . . easy to read in a matter of seconds

Haven’t made your #GivingTuesday gift yet? There is still time left! Can’t figure out who to support? Why not click-through and check out United Way of Elgin’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library?  It will warm your heart to invest in early childhood education and literacy. It did mine!
Did your organization participate in #GivingTuesday? If so, what worked for you? What didn’t work? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Your agency's fundraising program is like an iceberg

antique documentOne of the many projects I’m currently working on involves cataloging a resource development toolbox for a client. The things I’m finding in that toolbox are amazing and include: samples,templates, whitepapers, training curricula, calculators, and even an online wizard to help with resource development planning. (Cool stuff!)
However, there is one document I consider an absolute treasure for the ages. It was a speech delivered by Mrs. Leonard (Be) Haas in 1963 to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. The speech was titled “The 10 Basic Commandments of Successful Fundraising“.
(Note: In an effort to provide context and give credit where it is due . . . Haas was a fundraising consultant who helped launch Grizzard & Haas in Atlanta, GA which became a powerhouse fundraising firm in the Southeast United States. From what I can tell, the firm spun off into two powerful and influential firms today — Grizzard Communications and Alexander Haas, both of which are still located in Atlanta.)
After reading Mrs. Haas’ speech, I picked my jaw up off the ground and marveled at how on target she was about our profession more than 50 years ago.
While I would love to re-publish the entire speech, I’m not going to do it because:

  1. It is long
  2. While I’m fairly sure it is a public domain document (a 51 year old speech that wasn’t likely copyrighted), I want to be respectful.

However, there is one section of the speech that I can’t resist sharing. It is Haas’ fifth fundraising commandment that she titled “Consider the Iceberg”.  I encourage you to read the following passage and use the comment box below to share your thoughts.

“The actual mechanics of a fund-raising campaign all reduce themselves to very simple terms.  The job is to get the right man to make the right appeal to the right prospect for the right amount at the right time.  Guess you could call this our exclusive “Bill of Rights.” 
This objective may sound simple, but it requires as much behind the scenes planning and hard work as the part of the iceberg below the sea relates to what you see above the surface.  Getting the right people committed to work, compiling a list and evaluating the prospects so that you have the right prospects, putting those two together so that you have the right man making every important solicitation-armed with a pre evaluated request for a specific amount, this vital planning and preparation takes a lot of – time, hard work and know-how. 
John D. Rockefeller, Jr., once said, “When you have gone to all the trouble to sell a prospect on the worthiness of your project, he also has the right to expect you to answer his next question-how much should I give?”
Our experience shows that making specific, individualized requests are imperative for success.  By this we do not mean asking the prospect for X dollars.  Rather, you would say “We are seeking 19 gifts in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, and we hope you can make one of these,” or “We must have a grant of $100,000 to kick this campaign off and assure success.”
Organizing the soliciting teams, scheduling the campaign, pre-selling the prospects, backing up the solicitor with a competent office staff, these are all part of the iceberg beneath the surface of fund-raising. This thorough approach spells the difference between success and failure.”

Have some time on your hands? Click here to read the speech in its entirety.
Does your agency have a fundraising toolbox? If so, what is in it? Is there something in it that you believe everyone needs in their toolbox? What is it? Would you like to share it? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. Please also share your reaction to the snippet from Haas’ 1963 fundraising speech.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Why people do and don't donate to your non-profit agency

why1There has been lots written throughout the years about the psychology of philanthropy. Most of the stuff I’ve read has been right on target with regards to why people open their wallets/purses and give money to a non-profit organization. I’ve been asked to revise a whitepaper titled “Why People Do and Don’t Give Money” for a national organization’s online fundraising toolbox to which their local affiliates have access. So, I thought I’d ask you and the rest of the DonorDreams blog community for a little help this morning. Would you please be so kind and give me one minute (or less) of your time at the end of this post?
The fundraising whitepaper starts off with this simple opening paragraph that frames the rest of the document:

Knowing what motivates donors to make a philanthropic gift helps you determine where your prospect falls in this spectrum. Once you understand where they are coming from, you can plan your solicitation strategy accordingly.”

The following are just a few of the 17 bullet points listed, explaining the motivations of some donors:

  • They have a need to be philanthropic, to do good
  • They like your organization’s mission and believe in your cause
  • They like making a difference
  • They like and have respect for the solicitor
  • They are asked to give!

Then there is a list of another 11 bullet points listing reasons people don’t make donations. Here are three of the reasons provided:

  • They are pressured in any way
  • They are promised any kind of favor in return or there are strings attached to their gift
  • They do not have the money at the moment

Here is where I’m asking you to please take a minute out of your busy day and help me with this small project. Please scroll down and answer the following two questions in the comment box below:

  1. Please share one reason you suspect people donate to your agency. (e.g. something that motivates the donor to contribute)
  2. Please share one reason you suspect donors won’t give to your agency. (e.g. a strategy you don’t use because you know it doesn’t work)

I will take your responses and weave it into a beautiful resource development tool for countless other fundraising professionals to use.
Why should you do this?
Simply stated, this is your opportunity to pay something forward today. Many of us have been the recipients of awesome coaching and mentoring from other professionals along our career paths. I believe those “debts of gratitude” should be repaid joyfully every time the opportunity presents itself.  🙂
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Get over your fear and ask for a specific contribution amount

ask1On Tuesday, I wrote a post titled “Things to consider before sending your next direct mail solicitation” and there appeared to be great interest from DonorDreams readers. So, today I decided to drill down on one specific mail solicitation topic — “asking for a specific donation amount” — because it is something few people seem to feel comfortable doing.
Everyone I’ve ever talked to about their mail appeal swears that they are good at asking for a contribution in their letter. However, the truth is that many of the letters I receive default to what I call the “passive ask.
Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  • But we can’t do any of this without you. We need you to make a contribution today.”
  • All gifts are appreciated and needed to continue this important mission. Small or large, your gift makes a difference.”
  • Say YES to making a donation today to XYZ agency and being a special part of the XYZ family.”

These were real solicitations that I received from organizations.
Many of you are probably asking:  “What is so wrong with this approach?
The truth of the matter is that this donor (and I suspect many other donors) want to know:

  • what is a reasonable gift for donors like me?
  • what contribution amount from me will help you hit your goal?
  • what level of donation will help you make a difference with your clients?

Put me in a ballpark. Make a suggestion. Bottom line? I don’t really want to think too hard about this. Throw out a suggestion (based upon what you know about me). I’ll consider it. If it is something I can and want to do, then I’ll do it. If it isn’t something I can or want to do, then I won’t.
In my opinion, there is a darker side to this entire question . . .

Stop putting your donors on the spot and making them guess what you need.

This is, in fact, exactly what you’re doing. Right? Let’s think about this situation in a different light.
ask2What if your spouse or friend approached you and said, “I am really hungry and I need you get me food and make a meal before I starve.” However, they didn’t tell you:

  • How hungry they are?
  • How much time they had left before they starved?
  • How much food would satisfy their need?
  • What they want to eat?
  • How they like their food prepared?

You’ve been put on the spot, but you have no idea what is expected of you or what needs to occur to solve the problem.
In my book, that is frustrating! And the last time I checked, it is never a good idea to do things that frustrate your donors and supporters.
So, you’re probably wondering what’s the right way to respectfully make an ask in a mail appeal?
Here’s a few real examples:

  • Smile Train: “We hope you can send a donation of $25 that can cover the cost of sutures for one cleft surgery . . . $50 that can cover the cost of anesthesia . . . $125 that can pay half the costs of one surgery . . . or a most generous donation of $250 that can cover the cost of one complete surgery to save a child forever.
  • Council of Indian Nations: “Mr. Anderson, do you realize that for $10, we have the ability to provide over 90 servings of food to hungry Native Americans?
  • Michelle Obama: “So please, without waiting even a moment, rush your contribution of $1,000, $1,500 or whatever you can afford to Obama for America today.
  • The Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation: “But Founding Sponsors who contribute $150 or more will also receive a limited-edition, numbers photograph of Dr. King and his ‘American Dream’ speech.
  • Boys & Girls Club of Elgin: “Would you consider making a $25.00 donation to the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin to help underwrite educational and technology programs?

ask3A few observations:

  • Technology is amazing and easy to use. Mail merge allows you to personalize every letter and change the solicitation amount for each donor and prospect.
  • If you don’t know the person receiving your solicitation letter, you can always ask for consideration in a range.
  • You can also lay out a variety of giving options with an explanation of what each option helps underwrite.

With all of this being said, I understand the following:

  1. this isn’t easy
  2. there are times when you shouldn’t ask for a specific contribution amount
  3. some people insist there is a science to these issues

If you want to explore this question in more depth (and I encourage you to do so), you might want to investigate the following resources:

How does your agency tackle the issue of setting suggested ask amounts in your targeted and direct mail solicitations? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. Because we can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847